Thursday, 6 October 2011

I love the bling

I was never a sporty child.

I used to visit friends’ houses and marvel at the bedroom shelves – or sometimes the mantelpiece or even a fancy cabinet – full to bursting with trophies, ribbons and medals from football, cricket, judo, horse riding, athletics and dozens of other active youthful pursuits which resulted in gold-coloured plastic being handed out on a termly basis. Adorned with tiny plaques engraved with such banalities as ‘Runner-Up, Under-11s 1997-98 season’, they served as dust-collecting reminders of my relative (and indeed complete) lack of prowess as a sportsman. I never, ever, (to my recollection) received anything like that.

Maybe I exaggerate, but only because the instances in which I did collect such awards are so tragically comic. I do remember being given a few bizarre medals for sports participation on package holidays, which I wore with glowing pride in the full knowledge that anyone who attended any given activity twice merited such an award. Worse still, I recall being presented with a medal at the end of a friend’s birthday party, which was organised as an extended competition since the birthday boy was so sporty*. Everyone’s medal was different – the birthday boy’s a gleaming gold as he came first, mine a dull, almost grey bronze colour to indicate, I think, that I came dead last. When I got home I spray-painted it with some leftover gold Christmas paint and completely ruined it, the paint collecting in the grooves and making a sad, sticky mess. Then I threw it away.

As the years without collecting any sporting bling dragged on I decided that I probably didn’t want anything like that anyway. Let the kids play their silly games and collect their shiny mementoes if they want – I don’t need anything like that. Not while I have the smug satisfaction of the non-participant.

Paris, Brighton, San Francisco and Loch Ness Marathon medals
So it came as a bit of a surprise to me when, aged 21, I was so incredibly excited to receive a medal after my first professionally-organised run. It was the old,  now-twice-superseded Edinburgh Half Marathon, subdivided for us newbies into a 4-person relay of roughly 5k legs. We were given the same medals as people who completed the full distance, rewards which claimed we had run a half marathon each. I was utterly overjoyed.

Over the following couple of years I became a magpie for the things, delighted when my collection outgrew the successive storage and display ideas I came up with. Where the opportunity existed, and particularly for marathon medals, I had them engraved with my name and finish time. 

I became a connoisseur of medals, sometimes even choosing races based on how good I thought the bling would be. I cherished the ones that were emblazoned with the date, the distance, the name of the race and a quality logo, disparaging those which missed any of my criteria. Finally, I felt, I could look those stupid little football trophies in the eye. In a similar, though less obsessive vein, I grew infatuated with the freebie T-shirts handed out at races. Then I started carefully preserving all my race numbers. My collection of bling and stash quickly became unmanageable.

The whole ridiculous collection
I think it was after my seventh or eighth major race, however, when the shine started to come off medal-collecting. The pile of bling became weighty and unruly. It looks ridiculous to have them all out in one place.

 When I ran two Kilomathons six months apart, one in Derbyshire and the other in West Lothian, and received identical medals because the organisers decided to save themselves a few quid, I grew a little cynical about the whole concept. I finished the Meadows (half) Marathon this year and realised that they didn’t award medals, which briefly irritated me before I decided that I was quite pleased not to have to lug home another piece of commemorative metal on a ribbon. Only when the MokRun handed out beautiful, handmade and glazed pottery medals on tartan ribbons did I briefly think that there was still mileage in collecting them. But, like many of my running friends, I more or less resigned to the idea that the medals were a silly distraction for beginners and bucket list marathoners. We real runners don’t need such nonsense.

But just last week, we had some of the Crew Chief’s family to stay. Despite the fact that my medals are currently tucked away in the bottom of a cabinet in the corner of our living room, they caught the eye of one of our guests, and she asked me about them. I glowed with pride as I explained how I got them, probably looking not unlike myself as a twelve year old boy, walking proudly around a Club Med resort wearing a mad medal shaped like Poseidon which declared my low-level commitment to archery (if this seems confusing, it is). Each one is a little marker in my running career, a tiny little witness which unobtrusively says ‘I was there, and I did that’.

Alright, alright, I love the bling. I earned it, after all.

Happy running


2011 to date: miles: 991.94, parkruns: 6, races: 6, miles biked: 111.06, metres swum: 1225 

*That boy, now definitely a man, recently ran his first marathon. It was much, much slower than mine. I am in the process of building a time machine to go back and tell my eight-year old self all about it. He will be delighted.


  1. I can totally relate! I've got one of the Bupa bad boys - a nice, weighty piece, and if all goes well I'll scoop a Loch Ness one in September! :)

  2. With a name like 'medalslut' I probably shouldn't be surprised! Best of luck at Loch Ness later in the year - check out my race report ( for a guide on what NOT to do...